Thursday, December 05, 2013

Culture Shock Aboard Amtrak

We caught a ride to Eugene with Krista after Thanksgiving to help with wedding prep.  Obviously, we needed to figure out how to make the return trip. I planned to rent a car. It would be about $200 for the 3 of us; but the passes are iffy this week. I checked into Amtrak.  $252 for the three of worries about icy road conditions.  We have ridden trains quite a bit in Japan - we like trains. I bought tickets.  The train station was cute and adequate. Amtrak employees were helpful and friendly.

I was excited to ride the Coastal Starlight. This train runs from Seattle to Los Angeles along beautiful coastal areas and passes. Unfortunately, the only time it LEAVES Eugene is 5:00 p.m. - so it was dark during our trip. ::snort:: I'm thinking I need to ride the train from here to Eugene next - in daylight hours.

However, the similarities between train travel in Japan and America ended with the station (and there were differences there as well). The trains themselves are very different. Amtrak was MUCH slower than the Shinkansen. It was also a bumpier ride. We were an hour late arriving - something which never happened in four years of train travel across Japan. 

Shinkansen - Bullet Train 
Amtrak Coastal Starlight

The seats were NICE. Stacia reminded me of her Uncle Nate as we sat down. She began taking her seat apart...which caused me alarm...until I realized she'd figured out how to pull the bottom of it out so that it was like a recliner! ::snort::  There are electrical outlets at every seat. This is much more overhead space for luggage than in the Shinkansen. There are dining cars (which we didn't try) and a big empty room under our car where folks spread out sleeping bags.  I DID miss train employees going up and down the aisles selling snacks and drinks.

The girls and I have shared many laughs about our culture shock on Amtrak. After this fourteen hour trip, I do NOT think allowing folks to use their electronics throughout a flight is a great idea. The train was NOISY. The man in front of us talked on his cell phone for hours......plugged in so it never went dead. I learned how he was stealing money from a church to open a bar in Mexico....and later that he was just messing with the person on the other end of the phone?  The lady in front of Arielle had 26 boyfriends before she married her husband - and she didn't really WANT to marry him. He's dead now - life is good. These are a couple of the  personal details she shared with the stranger who sat beside her - a gentlemen.

We had downloaded a season of Cake Boss on to my laptop - the girls enjoyed watching movies and then sleeping. The website and signs all over both stations said, "Wi Fi - Why YES" but there is no wi fi on the Starlight. I did ask to make sure.
This gal's sleeping talent proved useful
 Due to the strange gentlemen behind us - I felt the need to remain vigilant....strange gentlemen? Glad you asked.....I noted him in the Eugene station and my heart sank when I saw him in the seat behind us. He smelled really bad. I tried to ignore that. One look in his eyes and I knew something wasn't "right."  I was glad to see the sane looking man sitting next to him. As the trip began he got agitated. He kept yelling..."No".... "MOVE"...."OPEN THE DOOR".... "DALE!" Fourteen hours of listening to him. The good thing is that he began to wander the train - and the train was long. That gave a bit of respite.
Not in the least bothered by the yelling behind her
He seemed to target me to yell at. I ignored him. Others alerted me  they were watching and aware. Who couldn't be aware? At one point he took off his shirt and strode up the aisle....he wore baggy sweats that exposed his bum....It wasn't a pretty sight. Arielle woke up as he walked past her seat. Her reactions are always priceless. She seems to think we Americans take individuality a bit far.  He did share he'd just been released from the hospital in Eugene.

The train stopped twice - just sat there. I heard rumors of troubles with a wheel. This agitated the man behind us.

We were glad to finally arrive. As we walked from the train to the station "the man" walked in front of us. He stopped, turned and began to yell, "NO" in my face. I noted we were close to the building and so I stood in front of him and told the girls to MOVE into the station. I knew Michael was waiting and I'd follow them. He glared and yelled again....and I looked up and saw Michael start through the tall, glowering, hero in uniform. He wasn't taking this situation in stride. The man hurried off to another part of the station. Those glowering Gherkin eyebrows came in handy.

Michael said he saw a Japanese man exit the train looking very frazzled. Poor man I understand. We've been on FULL - Standing Room Only - trains in Japan and the  noise level is subdued. People move to the bathroom areas if they must talk on the phone. People use ear phones if they watch movies or listen to music. The trains are on time. People don't parade up and down the car yelling while disrobing.

Would I do it again? Yes. I will be sure to dress in grungy clothes and pack the electronics so I don't call attention to them.....the camera was probably not a great idea.  I would ask the conductor to move us if we ever end up with another situation like this.....but I figured there wasn't much they could do.  Michael has ideas of putting the man off the train. ::snort::

It's far beyond time for a shower and a nap....then we'll start some Christmas shopping or something. It's good to be back in CA.

We have ICE on our driveway....ICE.

Choosing Joy!
©2013 D.R.G.
~Coram Deo~
Living all of life before the face of God...